Most states in the U.S. are under a “stay-at-home” order. This means everyone should stay home unless there is something “essential” they need, such as groceries, pet supplies, car repair, medical appointments, or to care for someone, and if going out, maintain a 6-foot space between yourself and the people around you.
It can be a real challenge to stay in when we are so used to going about our daily lives. Adding to the equation is the vast number of people who are now working from home, with or without children or spouses. And, the volume of information and misinformation about COVID-19 in the media and on social media can compound stress and anxiety already felt.
We are all individuals with our own ways of coping with stress and anxiety. Fortunately, there are positive ways of handling the feelings that come with a widespread viral infection, and a “shelter in place” order.
Who Might Be Feeling More Stress and Anxiety
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) notes that different types of people may react to the coronavirus pandemic more strongly than others. These people may be:
- Older people and those with chronic or immunosuppressed health conditions who are at higher risk of infection
- Healthcare staff and first responders
- People who have mental health conditions or substance use disorders
Children and teenagers also might have difficulty dealing with the emotions that come with stressful situations, such as the coronavirus pandemic. Individuals in troubled relationships might be more stressed than usual. Military veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or a traumatic brain injury (TBI) might feel more stress.
We want to share some positive steps to take to handle COVID-19 anxiety and stress and can take each day one at a time.
Here are suggestions about how to make positive steps to improve physical health. When you feel healthier, you will feel less stressed and anxious.
- Take good care of your body. Eat healthy meals and snacks. Plan meals and snacks in advance and order online for delivery.
- Go outside for fresh air and exercise. Walk the dog, go on a hike or long walk following social distancing guidelines.
- Get a good night’s rest. Create a bedtime routine that promotes falling asleep easier and staying asleep as long as possible.
- Make time to unwind from work responsibilities. If working from home, set aside time to spend with your family. Enjoy a family game or family-friendly film on a streaming service. Encourage reading, either alone or with family.
- Connect with family and friends on the phone, through text messages or email.
Emotional health can be one of the most challenging aspects of overall health to manage. Sometimes, all it takes is one bit of bad news to tip someone over the edge from keeping emotions steady to becoming depressed.
Stress, anxiety, depression, grief, and worry are natural feelings when something as significant as a pandemic strikes the area and affects your life. To keep a handle on emotions, be aware of these signs of distress:
- Feeling numb, fearful, anxious or in disbelief
- Appetite, energy levels, and activity levels change from what was normal
- Trouble concentrating
- Trouble sleeping, having nightmares
- Physical symptoms of stress, such as headaches, stomachaches, body pains, and skin rashes
- Short temper or anger
- Chronic health problems become worse
- Alcohol, tobacco, or drug use increases
How to Manage Stress and Anxiety
Don’t let stress and anxiety take over. Stick to a regular daily routine, jot down positive ideas and follow up on them, and follow other suggestions for making “stay-at-home” more manageable.
Personal Steps to Take
- Wash hands with soap and warm water vigorously for at least 20 seconds after being public places like gas stations and grocery stores
- Wear a protective mask over your nose and mouth if you need to go to a store or pharmacy. A long scarf folded several times and tied behind your head will do.
- Sneeze or cough into your elbow, upper arm, or hand, if you do not have a tissue.
- Clean and disinfect commonly touched items in your vehicle and home such as the steering wheel, locks, window switches, entertainment control knobs, and gear shift in vehicles. At home, clean and disinfect all remotes, faucets, toilet handles, doorknobs, light switches, and anything else that is used daily.
Control Outside Stressors
- Turn the TV off if the news is stressing you out. Find something else to watch. Use streaming services to distract from the barrage of coronavirus information in the media.
- Engage in “digital detox” and commit to avoiding social media outlets for a few hours, a day, weekend, or however long it takes to refresh your mind.
- Listen to music, read, or practice mindfulness.
If you feel like your emotional health is negatively affecting your life and those around you, reach out and seek help. Many reliable and respectable mental health facilities are staffed with licensed therapists available to help you manage stress, anxiety, and other overwhelming emotions that the COVID-19 crisis can cause.
Handling stress and anxiety in this unprecedented time is essential to overall sound physical and mental health.